Commercial shipping has been held up as an example of what should be done as the international community meets in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to tackle the problem of the Rohingya.
The Rohingya, Muslims from Northeast Myanmar, are fleeing there in increasing numbers, usually in rickety ships and heading south to Malaysia and Indonesia .
This has led to an Emergency ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime Concerning Irregular Movement of Persons in Southeast Asia Region, which follows on from a May meeting in Bangkok on the same subject.
Ahead of the meeting, commercial shipping was praised for helping people at sea, with others urged to emulate them.
“Commercial shipping has proven its humanitarian credentials over and over again, particularly in the case of the Indonesian fishermen who brought desperate migrants ashore. We commend them and hope they will continue to lead by example,” a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration told IHS Maritime.
“We hope that all ship masters can uphold the long-standing maritime tradition of rescue-at-sea by providing assistance to people in distress at sea regardless of their nationality, status, or the circumstances in which they are found,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told IHS Maritime.
The International Organization for Migration and UNHCR are signatories to a 1 July letter urging governments in the region to do more.
While there has been progress, the letter urges more is done. The signatories urge a crackdown on smuggling and trafficking networks and a more harmonised approach, via a task force, to deal with the migrants.